10 Routes to Finance Your Film


You’ve decided you want to make a movie: a short, feature or documentary. You most likely have a ball-park figure of how much money you’d like to have in your jeans to make this happen.

Wait a minute, first things first.

Are you really sure your script or documentary outline is credit worthy? You’re going to be spending a whole lot of time and other people’s money on this. Don’t waste time and money on a sub par screenplay.

Have you made a business plan? Creating a business plan is almost as important as finding a terrific script. Make creating a viable and realistic business plan your first priority.

Many filmmakers create an outline business plan first, and then find a script that matches what they think they can raise.

Enough preaching! Here’s the 10 ways you can finance your film:

1. The Studio Model

The strategy: Get 3 – 5 films together of a similar genre, and approach investors with a slate of similar films.
The theory: What you are trying to do is show that you have more than one egg in your basket, and all you need to do is get one of your ugly ducklings out there for an unqualified success.
Reality check: Do you really think you can get more than one project together? You might want to collaborate with some like minded filmmakers with similar projects.

2. Government funding

Many nations now have attractive tax and investiment incentives for filmmakers.
The strategy: Europe’s MEDIA programme has twenty-odd programmes for media and filmmakers. Apply for the funding and lobby the decision makers until you hit gold dust.
The theory: Many euro filmmakers design a business plan around the rules and regulations surrounding the MEDIA money. Ditto for money from other countries as well.
Reality check:
Soft public money funds are always heavily over-subscribed. In addition, these funds will impose restrictions that could easily compromise your creative integrity.

3. UK government funding

The UK government still pumps tens of millions into British film every year. Following the heavily criticised demise of the UK Film Council, public money is now distributed by the BFI.
The strategy: The BFI’s strategy appears to be to help as many filmmaking initiatives as psossbile.
The theory: Submit an application for funding to the appropriate BFI-funded programme and await a positive decision.
Reality check: The BFI is tying hard to shake off the age old criticism of nepotism. Don’t get your hopes up unless you have wined and dined the right civil servants.

4. UK Tax finance – EIS

It’s all about de-risking your film package. The UK govenment has created one of the world’s best environments for derisking investments in small business up to 98% (depending on the investors profile). Film is a qualifying business.
The strategy: Get a business plan together with a budget and schedule. Fill in a few online tax forms and get your UK limited company regisetred for the Enterprise Investment Scheme. If you get stuck, phone a really nice lady in Wales who will make sure you secure the paperwork.
The theory: Because film is “sexyit’s easy to attract private investors to your film project.
Reality check: Nearly every Tom, Dick and Harry are in London from all over the world trying to cash in making it really competitive. Add to that the recent economic downturn, and investors, while still plentiful, are shy and cautious. You can still score with this route, as long as your business plan is sound and you hook up with the right licensed promoter.

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5. Pre sales and Co-productions

Really two topics in one.
The strategy: Sell your movie cheap up front (presales), and hook up with producers in other countries to mop up the soft public money (number 2 and 3 above).
The theory: By co-producing you can take advantage of soft money not normally accessible to your production.
Reality check: This can work but is arduous to set up. Additionally you will now have financial partners all over the world who will want to exercise creative control. Not right for every project, but a viable option nonetheless.

6. Product placement

Heineken reportedly stumped up a third of Skyfall’s $150,000,000 budget to turn Daniel Craig’s James Bond into a lager drinker.
The strategy:
Team up with brand managers and get cash for including their products on set.
The theory: The product exposure the brand enjoys has a far greater value than the cost of the product placement and is generally seen to be cheaper than comparative advertising on TV or print.
Reality check: Few indies have the pulling power of James Bond. Brands will always want to know what the marketing strategy of your film is before they invest in, or even allow their products to be used.

7. Music

Since music and film are closely associated, use the power and reach of music to enhance the audience for your film.
The strategy: Get well known musicians to create an original musical score for your movie and allow you to use their name in promting the movie.
The theory: Not only do musicians have their own following, but often their reord deals do not include music soundtrack scores meaning they can earn additional revenue from your movie.
Reality check: This route is entirely project driven and isn’t for everyone. With the right research, the right musicians and of course, the right script, this route could mean that the producers could cash in once the film is made and out there. Speaking of once, check out the 2007 Raindance success story Once which is now a Broadway hit and earning the music rights holders an estimated $100,000 per week.

8. Crowdfunding

If you had asked me in early 2011 what I thought of crowd funding, I would have told you to stop wasting your time. However, Raindance endorsed the popular Underwater Realm crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter which raised over $100,000. I then became a convert.
The strategy: Get some rewards together and offer them to your mates and friends hoping to entice them into making a donation to youyrtrdtr project.
The theory: People might not want to put thousands into your movie, but if the project sounds interesting they might be willing to put in a tenner.
Reality check: Even the studio biggies are using crowdfunding. Charlie Kaufman raised over $400,000 for his new project Anomalisa. This is crowding the pitch and making it even tougher to get enough noise directed your way. All this means is that you need a really good plan in order to successfully approach crowd funding.

9. Deferrals

Get everybody to work and be be paid later out of profits if any.
The strategy: Convince everyone that in order to get the film made now you can’t wait for investment. In exchange you offer up a percentage of the share of profit meaning that everyone’s salary could potentially increase depending on the success of the film.
The theory: If everyone is part of a communal effort, in theory everyone will work harder and smarter becasue it is in everyone’s mutual interest.
Reality check: Deferrals can work but are reliant on the trust the producer has with his team. Often deferrees are unpaid even though the film goes on to commercial success. There is also the temptation to overstate the value of the deferment which can lead to bitter arguments if the box office returns do not meet expectations.

10. Self financed: Shooting on plastic

The hell with all of the different routes above. My bank has just given me a new credit card with a decent limit. I’m going to shoot this sucker now, and worst case scenario is that I’m on the hook to Visa for the next 60 months at 50 bucks a pop.
The strategy: Self-financed movies mean you don’t have to deal with investors. It does mean that you have to be careful with the money. It is yours!
The theory: Getting your film done immediately with your own resources is an enticing prospect and very achievable in today’s digital world.
Reality check: We see hundreds of movies made this way every year at Raindance. Most fail, because the script isn’t good enough. By going the self-financed indie route, the filmmakers have side stepped the development cycle and no one has told them that their script sucks. Other times we are amazed with the results. Take How Do You Write A Joe Sherman Song or Missed Connections from the States, or British indie City Slacker

Fade Out

Here’s a thought. The common complaint producers have is not about raising the money. Even in today’s troubled economic climate there is loads of money.

Film producer’s moan and complain about the lack of great scripts. What are you going to do about that?

Yours in filmmaking,

Elliot Grove



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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